Watched for the first time in 2013. All rated 4.5/5 (9 out of 10) on letterboxd. In case you’re wondering, I’m counting films that are before the 2010s. In random order:
Blow Out (1981) (Brian De Palma)
Reminded me of Berberian Sound Studio (2012), or The Conversation (1976), about the behind-the scenes activity of a sound technician.
It would make more sense today, that there was footage of an accident, with mobile phones everywhere. In early 80s, it was less likely to happen. The film alludes to elements of the Watergate scandal and the JFK assassination. As Roger Ebert noted: “We share the excitement of figuring out how things develop and unfold, when so often the movies only need us as passive witnesses.”
Definitely interested in checking more from Brian De Palma, loved this. It is style over substance, but it’s just so entertaining.
As a critic wrote, maybe the film “has less to do with sound than with hearing”. It wasn’t a box office hit, but there has been a reappraisal over the years. The poster didn’t exactly help matters, as it doesn’t even look like John Travolta!
As Pete Turner wrote in his review: “In an age where people mistrust everything they see from 9/11 footage to the moon landing, Blow Out is still extremely relevant and incredibly cleverly crafted.”
Body Double (1984) (Brian De Palma)
It takes a lot to wow me, and this film achieved that. Loved it. Underrated 80s movie. Probably has one of my favorite sequences I watched this year, when the guy follows the woman to the mall and to the beach. You become hypnotized by the woman he’s following, as if you are in the same shoes as the main character. Pays homage to the Alfred Hitchcock movies Vertigo and Rear Window.
I especially loved the first hour of the movie, and the climax. Maybe the best ending of all the De Palma films.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) (David Lean)
Won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film concerns Lawrence’s experiences in Arabia during World War I. Wow, several ambitious battle scenes are just mind blowing, especially with that score, and since they filmed them without CGI. Shooting lasted 18 months, the actors were told it would take a few months! I liked that the main character Lawrence was not just a hero, but had flaws as well.
A minor issue I had, would have preferred the intro scene had been cut. Same story device as Life of Pi (2012) and The Hobbit (2012), we know what happens to the protagonist in the opening scene.
The Lion King (1994) (Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff)
A wonderful animated film from Disney, which does have formulaic elements, sidekicks as comic relief, and the obligatory songs, yet for a change I actually enjoyed the Disney soundtrack. The film also has characters you remember and care about.
I liked the message, about identity, and finding your place in life.
Favorite quote: “I never get to go anywhere.” “Oh young master, one day you will be king, then you can chase those slobbering mangy stupid poachers from dawn until dusk”
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) (Isao Takahata)
Animated drama set in Japan during WW2. The scenes with the brother and sister are my favorites, which takes me back to moments in my own life. Not often that an animated film can affect me on an emotional level, and this one succeeded.
About the silent victims of war, the innocent children who are left to battle for survival.
The Seventh Continent (1989) (Michael Haneke)
Powerful Austrian drama directed by Michael Haneke. Based on a true story about a family. I had no idea where the story was heading, because there is no obvious direction at first. Keeps you guessing what is wrong. Towards the end I laughed out loud at the absurdity of what was happening. Will have to give it a rewatch sometime to look out for clues in the first part of the film. Best to know absolutely nothing before watching.
Benny’s Video (1992) (Michael Haneke)
A lot better than I expected, why only 7.1 on IMDb? Not for the squeamish. Michael Haneke, his films are so forceful.
Spoilers: The way the boy behaves, eating yoghurt, doing his math homework, as if nothing has happened, that was so disturbing. The scene when his parents discuss how to move forward is also memorable, especially the mothers reaction, and shows how a kid’s behavior is so linked to their parents. Impactful all the way through. If it was 10 years later, I’m sure the tape would have ended up on the internet. I guess that’s the only redeeming thing to say, that Benny didn’t have the urge to share it.
Day of Wrath (1943) (Carl Th. Dreyer)
Powerful albeit joyless drama by director Carl th Dreyer that concerns a community calling out women as witches. The priesthood are the enemy.
The church is supposed to be a system for good, yet in this film are inhumane. Are the priests really evil, or simply doing their job? Do the priests sincerely believe that witches exist, or is it to give the town a scapegoat? If the later is true, the priests are the real sinners. Perhaps a fear of an uprising and other rival beliefs.
When I see a film such as this, my reaction is so strong, that I feel the church should be abolished.
Metropolis (1927) (Fritz Lang)
The coupe fall in love a little too quickly, yet it is a masterpiece, the sets and visual effects are groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. The world that has been created looks massive, even though some of them are miniatures.
You could question why the mad inventor is given so much power by the leader, but then the guy in charge had no way of predicting what would transpire. A truly unmissable classic.
M (1931) (Fritz Lang)
Was Fritz Lang’s first sound film, Lang considered M to be his favorite of his own films because of the social criticism in the film. In 1937, he told a reporter that he made the film “to warn mothers about neglecting children.”
Great performance by Peter Lorre. The suspicion and hysteria reminded me quite a bit of Vinterberg’s The Hunt (2012), the community taking the law into their own hands. Though the difference is the suspect is a presumed child killer in the 1931 film. M is also about how the system of the law is a problem for the families of the victims, no punishment can repay what they have lost.
Spoilers: You could say the community’s efforts are superfluous, as the resources Schranker brings to the search are essentially of the same kind available to the police. Yet the desire for justice perhaps outweighs logic. We are spared the savagery of the attacks, for this reason, the audience is not energized by the blood lust of the citizens. His pain may be more acute, because as perpetrator of those atrocities, he must be more offended than they can be, and to the extent that he is powerless over his compulsion, he is a victim. The assembly thirsts for vengeance and blood. For the first time in the film, the will to violence which makes murder possible is evoked. His struggle is revealed to be as much against himself as it is against his captors.
The structure of the film employed two modes, the movement from simple identification of the murderer, to the revelation of the unseen life within. We go from the expanse of the city, to the confines of the locker, and the subsequent descent down the stairs to the astonishingly cavernous warehouse. The Shining (1980) also used this method of the space gradually becoming more and more confined.
The Naked Spur (1953) (Anthony Mann)
Wow, this didn’t feel like an old movie at all, it had the pacing of a recent film. Stars James Stewart, in one of his western collaborations with director Anthony Mann. They made 5 westerns which are talked of as classics of the genre:
Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1955), & The Man from Laramie (1955).
The Naked Spur is a film where the group of characters share an equal screen time, they go on an adventure through the mountains. Beautiful scenery, and one of the better westerns from the 50s, which at 90 minutes never gets boring.
The only thing I have against these Anthony Mann westerns is there’s a hostility and violence towards the Indians, and seldom any understanding, but maybe that’s how it was back then?
The Wild Bunch (1969) (Sam Peckinpah)
Directed by Sam Pekinpah, so I expected it to be violent. Bloodbath, especially at the beginning and ending of movie.
The back story flash-backs are a bit similar to director Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy.
Entertaining western, which is as good as Leone’s work, which it aspires to be. I was wondering who the villain is, and maybe the wild bunch we follow ARE the bad guys.
William Holden wasn’t wild enough, though, perhaps he was supposed to be the quieter member of the group.
The machine gun out of control, that was pretty crazy, which I would label morbid humor.
Django (1966) (Sergio Corbucci)
The inspiration for Django Unchained, and for my money Sergio Corbucci’s western is superior to Tarantino’s.
The death count is pretty high, but you keep watching, to find out what will happen to these characters. The story feels iconic, and the main theme is fantastic.
3:10 to Yuma (2007) (James Mangold)
Russell Crowe makes for a sinister baddie and the pacing of this western is excellent. My favorite part is the last half hour. A keeper that I look forward to revisiting in future. Among the best modern westerns I’ve seen. A remake of 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Dead Alive (1992) (Peter Jackson)
Splatter Horror/Comedy. Also known as Braindead. Early directorial effort from Peter Jackson (Lord of The Rings Trilogy).
Very impressed by the special effects in this movie. Considered among the best in the gore genre. The bizarre mix of comedy and grossness somehow works. One of the supporting characters almost throws up, and that’s how the audience may feel as well. Highly entertaining, if you can stomach it. Looks like they had a lot of fun making the movie. They got a lot out of the reasonably small $3 million budget, because it has nearly every gore effect you can imagine. Definitely the most impressive “splatter” film I’ve ever seen. Just wow.
Enter The Void (2009) (Gaspar Noé)
The flickering images, swirling camerawork, and hand held back-of-the-head perspective is stylish, and is unlike anything I’ve seen before. But also so intense that it’s headache inducing, so the movie is not for everyone. I certainly didn’t want to watch the whole thing in one sitting. Imagine Requiem for a dream set in Tokyo’s underworld.
Showcasing the highs of drug taking, and also how it messes with your psyche so you can lose grip with reality. The film drags you into that world, so I felt I had been taking drugs with the characters.
I would have given it an even higher rating, if the story was stronger. The middle part of the film goes back in time, so some scenes have a sense of inevitability. Perhaps could have been even better, if it was presented chronologically, who knows.
The Wages of Fear (1953) (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Not entirely sure why they needed two drivers for the truck, but I guess it would be dull cinema just to have one driver for each truck. Aside from that, I was impressed by everything about it.
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) (documentary)
Looks at the trial of three teenage boys, who would be known as The Memphis Three. The case is quite disturbing, so not for the squeamish.
I didn’t know anything about it in advance, so that probably made it more powerful. It questions the accused and also the court proceedings. The jury appear to give a verdict based on incomplete evidence. Is someone guilty of murder, if they believe in the occult? Difficult to say one way or the other if the three boys are guilty, which is what makes it an interesting court case. The documentary presents the case and we have to make up our own minds.
Favorite quote: “They didn’t just kill my son, they killed a part of me, part of my wife”
First part of a trilogy of documentaries. There’s also a 2014 movie on the way starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.
City Lights (1931) (Charlie Chaplin)
Silent slapstick classic that just puts a smile on my face. A cute, and emotionally absorbing story, and a non-stop highlight reel of great scenes. Charlie Chaplin’s films have aged remarkably well, a timeless classic.
Although sound films were on the rise when Chaplin started developing the script in 1928, the director decided to continue working with silent productions. Set in the Great Depression, a major theme in City Lights is the contrast of material and spiritual wealth.
The General (1926) (Buster Keaton)
Classic silent starring Buster Keaton. So many great moments, the recruiting office scene, and sitting on the wheels of the train, were for me stand-outs.
Judging from this film, Keaton is better at physical slapstick than emotional acting. I suppose the part didn’t call for anything else. Keaton performed many dangerous physical stunts on and around the moving train.
At the 1 hour 5 min mark, features the most expense shot in silent movie history, when the bridge collapses and train falls in river.
Very entertaining, and I’m certainly interested in exploring Buster Keaton’s other work.
Sherlock, Jr. (1924) (Buster Keaton)
Buster Keaton silent comedy. Several memorable moments: the ring and the magnifying glass, when Keaton closely follows a man, the characters that transform into other characters at the cinema, and how Keaton jumps in and out of the big screen(Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo shows its debt to that scene). The exploding pool ball, the rooftop escape into a car, the dangerous high speed motorcycle ride, etc. A film to rewatch again and again.
Safety Last! (1923) (Harold Lloyd)
Many great scenes: Hiding from the rent lady, late for work, going on the overfilled tramp and ambulance, the cloth sample, the prank with the cop, the sale at the store, kick me written with chalk, and of course the ending. In fact the whole movie is funny from start to finish.
Mr Smith Goes To Washington (1939) (Frank Capra)
A very patriotic and inspiring movie. There’s a reason why it’s in the IMDb top 250, a story that is still fresh and hasn’t dated. Surprised that Smith just ran off when he got to Washington, kind of irresponsible. The dinner scene when the kids have an influence on their father’s decision was cute.
Capra’s goal was to celebrate democracy and freedom of speech, made at a time when democracy and freedom were being taken away due to WW2. The film is also about cynicism and optimism, and how you can lose sight of why you became a politician.
Favorite quotes: “”When I came here, my eyes were big blue question marks, now they’re big green dollar signs”
“And I’ll tell you one thing, that wild horses aren’t gonna drag me off this floor until those people have heard everything I’ve got to say, even if it takes all winter.” – Senator Smith.
Seen any of these? Agree or disagree? Thoughts are welcome in the comments